There are many occasions in life when something happens about which you have no power to change. Occasionally those moments can be tinged with sadness and sentimentality. A longing for what once was.
One of those moments occurred to me the other day when I passed the site of my old police station in Northampton. Mere Way.
Of all my thirty years service as a police officer, I spent a total of perhaps twenty three years working from that station and now it’s gone. It is I understand, to be rebuilt as a school.
When I first joined the Traffic Department – ‘E’ Division as it was called then – around 1980, we were located in Block One, closest to the actual station. The station itself was still operational, serving the Western side of Northampton town and remained so until Weston Favell Police Station was opened.
Traffic had on its fleet in the early 80’s the 3.0Ltr Ford Consul GT’s, which later became the Ford Granada 2.8Ltr, the Rover 3.5 and Range Rovers. We used to ‘put out’ two or three divisional traffic cars in the town and up to four motorways cars per shift. And over the years we moved from Fords, to Volvo’s, to BMW’s. We even had a couple of Saabs for a time.
My mentor when I joined the department was Tony Knight a dry, sardonic character with an altogether dark sense of humour. Tony went on to command the division later as a Chief Inspector. My next mentor was Brian (Chalky) White, who also freely ‘extracted the urine’ out of me and fellow colleagues.
Some other stalwarts of the Mere Way Traffic ‘massive,’ and equally free in taking the ‘P’ out of the new boy were officers like, John Bazeley, Chunky Goodrich, Phil Bayliss, Ken Longrigg, Pat Patterson, Martyn Wheeldon, Barry Pilkington, and a host of other names too numerous to mention here.
When the station closed in favour of Weston Favell, the Traffic Division (T.Ops now) moved into the station and that’s where it stayed until recently when the Road Policing department, as it was now renamed, was regionalised. (A fools decision by any account, seeing the standard of driving within the county now.)
During my time at Mere Way, it seemed that I must have worked out of every office. We never stayed in one place for long. The department was constantly ‘under review.’ A new Super would turn up and change everything around, just for the fun of it, although there probably was a reason that us mere constables were not party to.
The Operations crew room was on the second floor (the old CID Office) for some illogical reason. This had heavy footed coppers clattering down two flights of stairs whenever there was a ‘shout.’ Eventually the crews were moved to the ground floor.
In retirement, I now think that all of my service was spent at Mere Way. I know it wasn’t, but that’s the perception as one gets on in life. Memories, many of which will fade over time, will only be recalled by looking at photographs and ‘swinging the old blue lamp’ with retired colleagues, now that the station has gone. You’ll remember only the good times of course. The bad parts, and there were many, are forgotten.
I know that all things must pass, and yes, the building itself was never an architectural masterpiece. But for a station that served the town for many a decade it is an ignominious end, and I wonder whether those who made the decision gave any thought as to how it would or may affect those officers who had served their time at Mere Way Police Station.
I will always drive along Mere Way with fond memories of my time at the station. The friends I made, the friends lost in service and since, in the hope that my sentimental tear and my memories will never fade.